Baker, bucking GOP, goes green

Much has been made of Gov. Charlie Baker’s “evolution” on taxes, as the state’s Republican governor, seemingly liberated by his November reelection, has shed his longtime aversion to new revenue-raising schemes.

Baker’s willingness to consider new taxes is a mark of his separation from Republican orthodoxy. Now, in another move that sets him apart from a national party that has moved sharply to the right, Baker is in Washington, DC, today to sound the alarm on climate change.

The Globe reports that the governor will testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources, now back under the control of Democrats, which is holding its first hearing on climate change since 2009. According to prepared remarks shared with the paper, Baker will issue a sweeping call for the federal government to include climate change risks in all federal planning, and will ask for more federal funding for infrastructure spending to deal with climate change effects and new federal emissions targets that could vary by region.

It’s a far cry from the prevailing outlook in his party, whose leader has derided climate change as a hoax, bailed out of the Paris Climate Accord, and didn’t mention the issue once in his State of the Union address last night.

But it’s also a far cry from the Charlie Baker of just nine years ago, who punted on the issue during his unsuccessful 2010 run for governor. Asked at one point about the human role in global warming, he told a Globe reporter, “I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t. You’re asking me to take a position on something I don’t know enough about. I absolutely am not smart enough to believe that I know the answer to that question.’’

Fast forward to the present and the Harvard-educated governor has apparently gotten a lot smarter on the issue.

“We understand the science and know the impacts are real because we are experiencing them firsthand,” Baker will tell the congressional committee today, according to prepared testimony shared with the Globe.

His openness to new taxes and a more aggressive stance on climate change dovetail in one recent proposal: Baker’s call for a 50 percent increase in the deeds excise tax to fund local climate change “resiliency” projects.

Baker has been firmly in the never-Trump camp of the Republican Party, declaring in 2016 that he was blanking his presidential ballot, and he seems increasingly comfortable parting ways not only with the GOP’s standard-bearer, but with positions that now define the national Republican mainstream. Baker will reportedly try to cast climate change as a bipartisan issue, a worthy enough aspiration, but one that cuts against the grain of the partisan bent defining much of the climate debate.

A well-known frog famously said “it’s not that easy being green.” For Baker, it seems, it increasingly is.

 

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

State tax revenues continued to slide in January, leaving the state $403 million behind its target revenue goal seven months through the fiscal year. (State House News)

Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead files legislation that would create a commission to investigate the news business, particularly local news deserts and chain ownership of newspapers. (State House News)

State lawmakers are proposing new measures to protect student-loan recipients from deceptive practices, but the measures could invite litigation if passed. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Touting a decrease in crime and on-time budgets, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera pushed for the removal of the state’s fiscal overseer monitoring the city – a position held by Sean Cronin who wants the city to settle contracts with police and firefighters first. (Eagle-Tribune)

An estimated 1.5 million fans jam Boston streets for the New England Patriots victory parade. (Boston Globe)

Starting tomorrow, larger stores in Haverhill will be prohibited from offering customers disposable plastic bags. The city council on Tuesday voted 8-1 against a proposal to delay the bag ban. (Eagle-Tribune)

Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Griffin has been reinstated to his position in Easton, but remains on administrative leave. He was charged last year with assaulting an ex-girlfriend and an officer in the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. (Brockton Enterprise)

A property owned by F.X. Messina Enterprises has cost taxpayers more than $10 million in the last decade. City Councilors in Quincy voted to take it via eminent domain on Monday. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump delivered a “dissonant” State of the Union speech, says the Washington Post, “interspersing uplifting paeans to bipartisan compromise with chilling depictions of murder and ruin.” He also tried his hand at verse with a warning against various probes of him now underway, saying, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” Despite his calls for collective action, “unity — and normalcy — seem further from reach than ever,” writes the Globe’s Liz Goodwin.

ELECTIONS

Sen. Elizabeth Warren apologizes, in an interview with the Washington Post, for having identified herself as a Native American. The paper reports that she entered “American Indian” as her race on a state of Texas bar registration form in 1986. Meanwhile, a Boston Herald editorial rips her for not offering so much as a tweet of tribute to the Super Bowl-winning Patriots.

Joe Battenfeld says a Bill Weld Republican primary challenge to Donald Trump would not go well in the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. (Boston Herald)

Howard Schultz, whose possible independent run president has drawn harsh criticism from Democrats, tells a Cambridge audience he won’t do anything “as an American or as a candidate to reelect Donald Trump,” but doesn’t elaborate. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Jeff Jacoby says the nation’s economy continued to boom in January, despite so many headlines saying the 35-day government shutdown would hurt it. (Boston Globe)

General Electric will pay France $57 million because it fell short on its obligation to create jobs in that country. (WBUR)

The regional Worcester economy grew at its fastest rate in 2018 since the 1990s. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

A “parking strike” is called at UMass Boston to protest an increase in on-campus parking rates from $6 to $15. Opponents say the increase is not in keeping with the school’s mission to serve commuting students. (CommonWealth)

Lowell’s plans to build a new high school downtown, which has been a source of controversy in the city, will require state legislation granting air rights for new pedestrian bridges associated with the project. (Lowell Sun)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A big question looms over the debate on whether to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire: Would it ease or worsen the state’s serious opioid addiction crisis? (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

State regulators rejected more than 30,000 applicants hoping to drive for ride-hailing companies last year, and cleared 190,000. The applicants, rejected by a Department of Public Utilities background check into their age, driving record, and criminal record, had been cleared to drive by Uber and Lyft. (Salem News)

For the regional transit authorities, this year’s budget debate could be a tug-of-war between funding and efficiency. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The government shutdown delayed the distribution of climate data, but now that it’s out we know Massachusetts had its rainiest year on record in 2018 – as 61 inches fell across the state – and it was the 13th warmest. (WBUR News)

State environmental officials have granted Vineyard Wind a critical certificate for its offshore wind farm. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The State Police unit in charge of investigating serious automobile crashes takes an average of 10 months, and sometimes years, to complete its reports on accidents. (Boston Globe)

A woman who died early last month outside the Salvation Army in Worcester is finally identified, but the circumstances are still unclear. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

Robot reporters are handling the drudgery assignments (earnings reports/sports scores) at several publications. (New York Times)

Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, donates $10 million to Columbia University and $5 million to the Poynter Institute to boost journalism ethics.

PASSINGS

John Driscoll, a genial but sure-handed leader who served as editor of the Boston Globe for seven years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died at age 84. (Boston Globe) Kevin Cullen says Driscoll combined toughness with an “innate decency.” (Boston Globe)